[Bards] "Vivat Ghastly Malapropism!"
rudin at ev1.net
Wed Jun 13 07:04:59 PDT 2007
Rhiannon brought up an fun sidenote, unrelated to the court issues we were
discussing, but interesting in its own right.
>>> I am a little confused. Vivat Rex is OK being in the same
>>> language but Vivat King would be wrong?
>> That's half of it, yes. "Vivat Rex" is a well-formed Latin sentence.
>> "Vivat King" is not proper Latin or proper English or proper anything
> Hmm. I'm sure that usage on formal occasions would use language
> that was more formal (although I've not done any research on that
> subject.) But a wrinkle on that would be-- that mixing Latin and a
> vernacular language together was a widespread practice in songs and
Meanwhile, back in court (which was the question, after all), either "Vivat
Rex" or "Vivat Regina" has been used in every English coronation from 1308
on. So has "Vivat!" By contrast, "Vivat King!" and "Vivat Queen" have not
been shown to exist, and violate every example I've found of what did
> Anyway, all that to say that our modern sensibilities are often more
> tender about things like that than a medieval person's would have
This is an interesting assertion. What evidence do you have that courts
and ceremonies were less formal then than now, or that the difference
between Latin and English were less well known?
It's certainly true that languages are mixed more often in song. Consider
the modern song:
"Que sera, sera.
Whatever will be, will be."
The fact that this occurs now as well as then shows that it isn't an issue
of "modern sensibilities". Nobody would take a Doris Day song as evidence
of what happens in formal ceremony today, and for the same reasons, a
medieval song is not evidence of what happened in a medieval court.
> Mixing languages in the same sentence is complete and utter
> doggerel in the modern world, but without looking closer at Medieval
> texts, I'd be hard pressed to assert that it was never done in period.
"never done"? I can't imagine anybody who would claim mixing languages was
never done. Certainly not me -- I know about heraldic jargon and Law
French, not to mention the fact that English now has both the Saxon word
"cow" and the French word "beef". What is modern English except a mixture
of French, German, and Latin, pronounced incorrectly? I said that it
wasn't a well-formed sentence. This is true today, and it was also true in
the Middle Ages when Latin grammar was one of the seven Liberal Arts and
was included as part of every bachelor's degree. I can document *lots* of
informal usages, then and now, which are not well formed. I cannot
document any such usage that was a formal part of court proceedings -- and
neither can you.
Getting back to courts. In England, at least, they are formal occasions.
Sometimes Latin was used, sometimes French (early on), and sometimes
English. A court might have Latin chants followed by English
pronouncements. But I cannot find any example of a phrase with an English
subject and a Latin predicate, and what I know of the use of Latin in court
indicates that they would not have done such a thing. Do you have any
example or other evidence to the contrary?
There are many words and constructions that appear in songs today that
would not be used in an official ceremony. This was equally true in our
period, and is unrelated to modern sensibilities.
Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin
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